Cows and Buffalos (Thoughts on Depression)

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Courtesy of James Douglas

Around 1 in every 6 people in the United States will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime. Only about half of those with diagnosed depression seek treatment, which can skew the numbers and indicate that the prevalence rates are higher. In any case, hearts are struggling.

When a storm is coming, the animals seem to have a keen sense of it. As humans, we may not be as attuned to nature as the birds, but we do tend to be aware of when our hope begins to fade and the darkness of depression threatens. When the clouds gather and the thunder grumbles, cows do what any sane animal might do, they run away from it. Not desiring to be trapped under a deluge of water or the strobe effect of lightening, they run as far away from the oncoming system as they can. Unfortunately, nature has a way of winning out and moving faster. The storm, unless it dissipates, will overtake them. Buffalos, though, go a different route. They run into the storm. They turn toward it and enter in to fear and the darkness. And they make it through to the sunshine in much quicker time.

Depression is a lot like that. People’s greatest fears concerning emotions, according to Brene Brown, are shame and grief. Depression touches on both of those emotions. It says you are helpless, hopeless, and you can experience isolation in your despair. If we want to avoid feelings of shame, grief, sadness, and pain, we will do whatever it takes to fight it off and bolt the opposite direction. Depression is the oncoming storm, and should you choose to run away from it and fight it, you will linger in the darkness for much longer than you would desire. Entering in to it to learn what it has to teach you is the pathway out.

There is no quick fix to depression. But I believe God gave us feelings as signals in our lives that are worth acknowledging. There are many instances of characters in the Bible who struggled with depression (Jeremiah and David to name a few). The Psalms are filled with laments and grievous words. Yet these people were chosen by God. Sometimes it was a consequence of unconfessed sin, or the overwhelming pain observed in the world, but there was always a purpose. God can use anything, and he certainly uses depression in the lives of men and women. Perhaps it’s a wakeup call, a signal things are not right, a growth experience, or even a doorway to greater freedom. It takes great courage to walk in to the storm. Being honest with your self, and with your experience is a step in the right direction.

[Depression is a painful and difficult illness, sometimes chronic. If you feel you are experiencing depression please seek help]

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